Steven Blank writes in Four Steps to the Epiphany that “startups don’t fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers and a proven financial model”. He recommends that a new business should focus on understanding their clients’ problems, “discovering a repeatable roadmap of how they buy, and building a financial model that results in profitability”.

However, Blank asserts that most new businesses lack a process for discovering their markets, locating their initial customers, and validating their assumptions. The new businesses that succeed understand the customer development model, as shown below.


Understanding the pain points’ of the customer is crucial to any new business’s success. However, I often see law articles that focus on practice areas as opposed to customer hypotheses. In the article “Crowdfunding law is about to become the next hot practice area” by May Cheng, the focus is entirely on the benefits of pioneering a new practice area.

Cheng’s article is well written and very interesting.

She states:

As crowdfunding secures its foothold as a mainstream investment vehicle, it won’t just be litigators who have all the fun. Tax and business lawyers will have to develop expertise in the field to advise entrepreneurs on how to position the investor contributions to best advantage. Meanwhile, IT lawyers are already hard at work, advising Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites on how to set up their terms of use and licensing models.

However, Cheng never addresses client development.

Lawyers wishing to develop crowdfunding practice areas should ask themselves several questions. Who is the client? What are their problems with crowdsourcing? How well do we understand what problems crowdsourcers have? Does legal advice solve these problems?  Is legal advice on crowdfunding a must-have for our clients? Do we understand the hierarchy of crowdsourcers’ needs? Do we understand what we need to be profitable?

As a lawyer in a Bay Street firm, does Cheng plan on serving the crowdfunding platforms? Otherwise, who could afford her billable rate?

Simply telling lawyers to “build a brand and develop a recession-proof practice in this bleak economy” by focussing on crowdfunding reveals our lawyer-centric model of business. Instead, lawyers need to adopt a customer-centic model to remain profitable.